Cheneys shouldn’t expect automatic support from any Republican

By Kerry Drake
— October 8, 2013

Al Simpson has every right to be angry at Lynne Cheney, and not just for telling him to “shut up” at a dinner party. When she publicly denied it, the wife of the former vice president effectively called him a liar, and I’m sure that got Simpson’s blood boiling even more than the first insult.

Kerry Drake

And it should have, especially since it came from a long-time friend who seems to think that because her daughter Liz moved to Wyoming so she could run for the U.S. Senate, everyone — including Simpson — should automatically give him her support.

Simpson gave his account of this political spat in a lengthy letter to the Cody Enterprise, which concluded that he had more important things to do, but “if other folks want to keep this ping pong ball bouncing back and forth in the air, have a go at it.”

Don’t mind if I do. This is such a bizarre story in so many ways, I can’t help myself.

Briefly, this is what happened: At a non-political Laramie event, Simpson was asked by Liz Cheney and her daughter to sign a football. He did, but had second thoughts because he’s autographed other things that have turned up being auctioned for political causes he did not support. His wife Ann conveyed to Liz Cheney’s daughter that he wanted to take his name off the ball, and it was done, though not without some awkward explanations. This was apparently the first time Liz Cheney realized that Simpson was going to publicly support her opponent, incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi, in the race.

Flash-forward a week to a fundraiser for the Buffalo Bill Center for the West in Simpson’s hometown of Cody. Liz’s mother, Lynne, approached Simpson and said, “I can’t believe how you embarrassed my granddaughter and Liz at that event in Laramie.”

Simpson explained that wasn’t his intent. Then Cheney asked him, “How could you forget the little eight-year-old girl (Liz) who campaigned with us and for you in 1978? How could you not support her?”

Simpson started to explain about his 35-year friendship with Enzi, but said Cheney cut him off.

“Oh, I’ve heard enough of that and I don’t want to hear anymore. I just want to tell you something, ‘Shut up – just shut up – shut up.’ Three times,” the former three-term senator wrote in his letter to the Enterprise. “I wandered off – stunned. I went back to my table, told my family (who were my guests) what had occurred. They were also shocked.”

Simpson’s daughter-in-law wrote about the incident on Facebook, where it quickly came to the attention of the media. Asked to respond, Lynne Cheney put out a statement that said, “As to the story posted on Facebook I have to admit I am at a bit of a loss. That simply did not happen.”

Naturally, rather than just shutting up, Simpson went on the offensive. Again, from his Enterprise letter: “[T]hat twisted comment is one damn bald-faced lie and I have had a belly full of it! I have never been called a liar before and it sure as hell won’t work this time. … I lay my reputation flat on the line before my fellow Wyomingites who know Ann and me, but I sure don’t have to take that guff from anyone – whenever – whoever – ever!”

What amazes me in the flurry of comments about this incident is how many people have either 1) claimed it shouldn’t have been made public and 2) used it to bash and blame Simpson.

On the first count, what Lynne Cheney said was at a public event, and it’s fair game for it to enter the realm of political news. Actually, it doesn’t matter where it happened: If the wife of the former vice president tells a former U.S. senator to “shut up” because he won’t support her daughter — or for any reason — it’s news.

I have no doubt that if Simpson’s daughter-in-law had not written about it on Facebook, what transpired at the cocktail party probably wouldn’t have gone any further. But all of Simpson’s family was shocked, and she had every right to write about it. When Lynne Cheney denied it after the story became public, Simpson — in addition to defending his own honor — probably felt compelled to stand up for his daughter-in-law’s truthfulness, too.

Others have said Simpson shouldn’t have bothered to make a big deal about the football and demand that his name be removed. But if such incidents have come back to bite him before, I don’t blame him. In reality, the football part of the story is minor — the real issue was that the Cheneys learned their old pal was backing Enzi instead of Liz, and it didn’t set well with Lynne or her daughter.

When speculation appeared in the national media that Liz Cheney might take on Enzi in the Republican primary, The New York Times asked Simpson what he thought about it. Simpson didn’t mince words (when does he?) and said that if they both run it would be terrible for the Republican Party in Wyoming. I think he was right.

“It’s a disaster — a divisive, ugly situation — and all it does is open the door for the Democrats for 20 years,” Simpson told The Times.

What I find even more fascinating about Simpson’s explanation in the Enterprise about his skirmish with Lynne Cheney is what he revealed about a conversation he had with Liz Cheney right before she announced her candidacy:

“She called me saying in effect, ‘I hope you won’t say the same things when I announce that you said before.’ And I said, ‘Oh? Why not?’ She said, ‘I didn’t like it and I hope you’ll say something different.’ I said, ‘Like what?’ And she said, ‘Just say, “It’s going to be a spirited race.”‘ I said ‘I don’t think I’ll say that.’

“But she continued to cajole and work on me for me to say something else that she wanted. I was rather appalled at that but we had a cordial conversation and she asked me to tell her what I had heard about her, and I told her, much to her irritation – at least as to one aspect – and I told her what negatives people have said about me, and she said, ‘I agree. I have heard that.’ It ended on a cordial note. I said, ‘I think you’re headed into a really tough race. The people who care for you now do that because of the admiration for your parents and the high regard in which they, and your whole family, are held in Wyoming – but when you get into the real fray, it will be a whole different ballgame. Believe it.’”

When she did announce, Simpson’s public response was simply, “I care deeply about them both and I have nothing more to say.”

Elections can do terrible things to friendships, and the Simpson-Cheney tension is a heightened example of that. I don’t blame Liz Cheney for trying to win Simpson’s support, but once he’s made up his mind who he will endorse, it’s arrogant for her or anyone else in her family to try to dictate to him what he’s going to say.

What Lynne and Liz Cheney both said to Simpson conveys a sense of entitlement. It was the equivalent of saying, “If the Cheneys want your support, we will get it.” But as a political family, the Cheneys should be the first ones to understand that ties run deep, and Simpson has every right to show his support for a long-time friend whose politics match his own. It doesn’t mean he’s not also a friend of Dick Cheney.

I’ve known Lynne Cheney for many years, back when her husband was a Wyoming congressman, and my encounters with her have always been pleasant. She is a bright, intelligent woman, and she’s probably already figured this out, but here’s my two-part advice to her: 1) don’t ever call Al Simpson a liar again, and 2) if you’re going to tell every Wyoming Republican who doesn’t support your daughter to “shut up,” it will take up far more of your time between now and the primary election than you have to waste.

— Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake is the editor-in-chief of The Casper Citizen, a nonprofit, online community newspaper. It can be viewed at www.caspercitizen.com.

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Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. Just a clarification; Lynne was on the Board of Directors of Lockheed, a giant Defense Contractor, while Dick was the CEO of Halliburton, who gamed billions in DOD contracts, a surge of sorts, if any examine matters. And, U S Senator Ron Paul has in his recent comments on how Cheney operated. Now, Bush # 41, has claimed Cheney had his own “empire.( reference book on power, published in 2015). This has stirred up a black-lash fire-storrm from RUMSFELD, who was the Cheney mentor from their FORD Administration days.
    Also, just to explain, I was returning from a visit to Yellowstone in 1988, and was astounded how what appeared to be a National Guard helicopter was used to transport Bush( then not #41) from the Cody Airport, to the Bob CAT Ranch, of Al Simpson. Cody’s own, Simpson notes the Bob Cat Ranch in his BOOk, ” Shooting from the Lip”.
    So, while Lynne was not on the Board of Lockheed when Dick was DOD Secretary, she was later, as Cheney then revolved into the CEO-ship of Halliburton.
    They were both residing in Dallas, Texas–not Wyoming(then). There are plenty of NY, CHICAGO, and other executive official who reside in places far from Teton, most of the year, and have a vacation home in the Jackson Hole area. I attended St Anthony’s grade school in Casper, when David Nicholas did(was there), and so, setting matters in perspective is curious, as now the BUSh family reflects back on
    Cheney’s “empire”, or “iron ass”, as Bush # 41 calls Cheney.

    Jim Hagood
    Lakewood, Colorado

  2. Al Simpson was more rude to Lynne Cheney, than Eminem, the Detroit rap artist.
    The main point of matters is how Simpson goes to extremes to manipulate the media, which he
    refers to as the “gazoo’, or the ass. Why were Simpson and Lynne not discussing his Immigration bill of 1986, and his rude behavior to Ed Meese at the Dept of Justice? For Simpson using Ms Lynne Cheney to prove he is not a liar, or a lesser liar is the highest of farce. Is it the old question was he a born liar?
    How come none of your commented on Simpson’s book, and the Bob Cat, ranch?
    I was in Cody once, and pulled along the side of the road, near the Cody Airport, and personally observed
    a greenish helicopter approaching from a distant then landing next to a Lear Jet, & out got George Bush soon to be (41),
    it was the summer of 1988, during the time of the Democratic convention. So, was the helicopter a Wyoming National Guard Copter? Also, see the pieces on the Wyoming National Guard, by David Hackworth a highly decorated VET. But there is much more, since the events in Paris, as we now are near 2016. Lynne Cheney was on the Board of Directors of Lockheed, while DicK was Secretary of Defense.
    For them (the Al -Lynne show) to be arguing over which is the biggest liar is truly a telling point in American history.
    Some of you are quick to point to Lynne Cheney. Recall, Al Simpson spun the episode in his book on his Grand pa, who shot a man, and was placed on trial for murder. “Gunning for Justice” reflects Wyoming’s love affair with guns and the fast draw. If Dick was not such a coward, he would have come to defend the honor of Lynne, but recall, he got 5 draft deferments, as a young man, gratis the Casper draft board. Incidents at the Navy Petroleum Reserve North of Casper, show the true colors of
    Al Simpson, it is just that such matters are not reported about in WYOMING – the absent press.
    Wasn’t Brodi F cowered into silence over the rubber baron’s son, the matter on the Worland BLM Employees, and issues on protection of federal assets, land interests, abounded?
    Simpson’s letter to the Cody press will continue to raise issues, just look at Ex President Bush’s BOOK
    on Rumsfeld and Cheney that just came out Nov 2015 on power, but, some feel there is a right for for Al Simpson to feel angry. Let the troubled man(head case) keep talking, it points up more and more how,
    he has misled American, but Obama put him on a Commission, so now that issues goes beyond the Cosy Clubs of Wyoming, and those so eager to pander to the CLOWN.

    Jim Hagood
    Lakewood, Colorado

  3. Anything Cheney equals lies, hate, fear and me, me, me, the worst VP and the worst Senate candidate EVER!!!

  4. I cannot believe the audacity of the Cheney’s. It’s more than difficult to say anything at all bad about Wyoming’s most rational and most intelligent senator ever, but to tell him to just shut up? I hope this puts one more nail in the coffin of her candidacy!

  5. My last encounter with Lynn Cheney was a few years ago, when she was in Casper to hawk her new book about growing up in town.
    She made a point that the Bush/Cheney were keeping the nation safe, so I asked the following: If your husband and President Bush are going to take credit for keeping the nation safe since 9/11, shouldn’t they also take a measure of blame for the fact that 9/11 happened?
    For a few beats, she was speechless, before rambling that no one could have foreseen, yada yada, and beating a hasty retreat.

  6. You’re right, Kerry, that the most irritating feature of this story is the apparent sense of entitlement and disregard for the electorate as a party to the decision of who gets to go to Washington for us. The voters — remember us? We need information and forthright debate so we can make informed decisions, not pre-arrangements based on personal friendships.

  7. Democrats in Virginia are already gearing up to deal with a future Cheney candidacy in that state by pointing to her Wyoming debacle. She should quit the Wyoming race while she’s still only relatively behind.